Y Pwyllgor Plant, Pobl Ifanc ac Addysg

Children, Young People and Education Committee


Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Buffy Williams AS
James Evans AS
Jayne Bryant AS Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Ken Skates AS
Laura Anne Jones AS
Sioned Williams AS

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Dr Dave Williams Seiciatrydd Ymgynghorol Plant, Bwrdd Iechyd Prifysgol Aneurin Bevan a Chynghorydd i'r Prif Swyddog Meddygol a Llywodraeth Cymru ar Iechyd Meddwl Plant a’r Glasoed
Consultant Child Psychiatrist Aneurin Bevan University Health Board and Adviser to Chief Medical Officer and Welsh Government for Child & Adolescent Mental Health
Lynne Neagle AS Y Dirprwy Weinidog Iechyd Meddwl a Llesiant
Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Well-being
Yr Athro Dame Julie Lydon Ymgeisydd ar gyfer Cadeirydd y Comisiwn Addysg Drydyddol ac Ymchwil
Candidate for the Chair of the Commission for Tertiary Education and Research
Yr Athro David Sweeney Ymgeisydd ar gyfer Dirprwy Gadeirydd y Comisiwn Addysg Drydyddol ac Ymchwil
Candidate for the Deputy Chair of the Commission for Tertiary Education and Research
Tracey Breheny Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr Iechyd Meddwl a Grwpiau Agored i Niwed, Llywodraeth Cymru
Deputy Director Mental Health and Vulnerable Groups, Welsh Government

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Jennifer Cottle Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Naomi Stocks Clerc
Philippa Watkins Ymchwilydd
Rosemary Hill Ymchwilydd
Sarah Bartlett Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Sian Thomas Ymchwilydd
Tom Lewis-White Ail Glerc
Second Clerk

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:47.

The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:47.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Croeso i gyfarfod y Pwyllgor Plant, Pobl Ifanc ac Addysg heddiw. 

Welcome to today's meeting of the Children, Young People and Education Committee. 

Good morning and welcome, Members, to the meeting of the Children, Young People and Education Committee. This is the last committee meeting of 2022. I'd just like to thank all Members for their hard work over the term. We've done a lot over the last year, and I'm sure we'll continue our work throughout the next year. 

The public items of this meeting are being broadcast live on Senedd.tv. A Record of Proceedings will be published as usual. Aside from the procedural adaptations relating to conducting proceedings remotely, all other Standing Order requirements for committees remain in place. The meeting is bilingual and simultaneous translation from Welsh to English is available. We have no apologies this morning. Are there any declarations of interest? I see no declarations of interest.

2. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(ix) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o eitemau 3, 6 a 9 y cyfarfod
2. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(ix) to resolve to exclude the public from items 3, 6 and 9 of the meeting


bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o eitemau 3, 6 a 9 y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).


that the committee resolves to exclude the public from items 3, 6 and 9 of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

So, we'll move on to item 2. I propose in accordance with Standing Order 17.42 that the committee resolves to meet in private for items 3, 6 and 9 of the meeting. Are Members content? I see Members are content, so we will now proceed in private.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 09:48.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 09:48.


Ailymgynullodd y pwyllgor yn gyhoeddus am 10:00.

The committee reconvened in public at 10:00.

4. Sesiwn graffu gyda’r Dirprwy Weinidog Iechyd Meddwl a Llesiant
4. Scrutiny session with Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing

Good morning. We'll move on to item 4 on our agenda, which is a scrutiny session with the Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Well-being. Thank you for joining us this morning. This is following the session that we had with Mind Cymru and young people recently. So, just to introduce the Deputy Minister and your officials. So, we've got Lynne Neagle, Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Well-being; Dr Dave Williams, consultant child psychiatrist, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board and adviser to the chief medical officer and Welsh Government for child and adolescent mental health—you're very welcome; and we have Tracey Breheny, who is the deputy director for mental health and vulnerable groups. Good morning. Thank you very much for coming in this morning.

Just before we go into questions, just to highlight, as I said, that the committee did invite some questions from young people who were involved in Mind Cymru's 'Sort the Switch' just to provide us with some questions when we were preparing for today's sessions. Members will indicate when they are asking a question directly from young people. I just want to also put on record our very heartfelt thanks to those young people who submitted those questions and shared their experiences so powerfully with the committee in November, and who've taken time to help to shape our scrutiny this morning.

So, we've got a number of questions. We'll move straight into those questions, and first of all some questions from Sioned Williams.

Diolch, Cadeirydd a bore da. Ar 23 Tachwedd, fe wnaethoch chi ddweud wrthym ni fod y fframwaith polisi, y canllawiau ac arweinwyr pontio'r byrddau iechyd i gyd mewn lle, ond bod bwlch gweithredu ar lefel leol. Felly, beth yw'r rhesymau dros y bwlch gweithredu yma? Pam, yn eich barn chi, mae cynnydd o ran gwella'r broses drosglwyddo ar gyfer pobl ifanc wedi bod mor araf?  

Thank you very much, Chair. Good morning. On 23 November, you told us that the policy framework, the guidance and the health board transition leads were all in place, but that there is an implementation gap at a local level. So, what are the reasons for this implementation gap? Why, in your view, has progress in improving the transition process for young people been so slow?

Thank you very much, Sioned, for that question, and can I also take this opportunity to thank the young people who gave evidence to the committee, and also to place on record my thanks to the young people who worked with Tros Gynnal Plant for the work that we commissioned? There's nothing more important than hearing the voices of young people as we deliver our policies.

So, in terms of the implementation gap that I referred to the last time I was in the committee, obviously CAMHS was one of the services most impacted by the COVID pandemic, and we also saw an increase in referrals as a result of the pandemic, and also an increase in the acuity of the young people that were coming forward for support. And the committee will be well aware that that's been compounded by workforce pressures that we're facing in mental health, but I just want to be clear with the committee that this is a priority area for us.

The new transitions guidance was issued only in February this year. We have already taken steps through the work that we did by commissioning Tros Gynnal Plant to look at how this is working for young people. I wanted to let the committee know as well that officials did also engage with Mind Cymru about working with them on transitions, but they felt that it would duplicate the work that they were doing. So, they wanted to do their own work, which is obviously absolutely fine. Following the issues that have arisen through the TGP work and the Mind Cymru work, we are taking immediate action to try and address that implementation gap, as I think I said when I came to the committee.

We have arranged a series now of workshops between adult mental health services and CAMHS mental health services, and I'll bring Dave in, in a second, because he's been chairing those workshops, to say a bit about those. And what we're hoping to do is that those workshops will really drill down into what the implementation challenges are, and then we can have a really clear idea of what we need to do to make sure that we do drive this policy forward.

I don't know if any of you have read the policy, but it is an excellent policy—it's rights-based, person-centred; I think it covers everything that we would want to see in a transitions policy. So, it is about the implementation. Also, all health boards do now have mental health transition leads in place, and they are fully engaged with what we're trying to do, and all health boards have either developed joint CAMHS and adult mental health policies or fora in order to take this work forward. So, there is progress, but we really want to drive that work with real pace now. And I'll ask Dr Dave Williams to say a bit about the workshops, as he's been chairing those.


We've had two workshops over the first two weeks. Throughout my career, the issue of the transfer of children between children's services and adult services, in physical and mental health, has been a challenge. We've been very good at producing policies, but we haven't got [correction: but we have got] to the stage of why isn't the policy being delivered and we hear the voice of children and young people frequently. We've had an honest conversation, and it's become clear that there are a couple of structural things that need to be addressed, so that we can get a smooth transfer—most critically, the fact that the range of services and sorts of cases that CAMHS sees is different to the range of services that specialist adult mental health services do.

Early in my career, if you didn't have a severe mental illness, it was really difficult to find a service. Now, since 2011 and the Mental Health (Wales) Measure 2010 and the development of primary mental health care teams for adults and all ages, the offer for mild to moderate mental illness is much, much better, but it doesn't sit in the specialist adult services. Very often, it sits in with a number of different providers, whereas, in CAMHS, it tends to more sit in the main CAMHS. And what health boards haven't been good at is making it easy for children and service providers to understand what the current offer is, so that you can organise the transition to the correct service for that young person, not simply thinking of, what used to happen is how do you get them into adult mental health services. Some of the conversations we've seen and the comments from young people about the thresholds, well, the threshold of getting to a severe mental illness service is correct, but actually what we haven't been good at explaining is that that's because there are other services available for you that are different. We also haven't been good at saying, 'And services for this age group do operate in a slightly different way—the access points, the degree of support you get is different.'

Two things come out of that. First of all—and this came out of the TGP and the Mind Cymru response—is we need to have better information for young people, so that they can anticipate where they will be going, what services will meet their needs, and the style of service that's delivered. And secondly, we need to be better at giving service support and support to families to manage that transition, so that the hump between a more, I suppose, family and carer-based approach in children's service, isn't such a big step to a service that's very much focused on individuals, hopefully using the knowledge and support of carers, but it can feel quite a big jump in service model at 16, 17, 18. We need to be better at putting transition support, peer support, advocacy services in, to cushion that transition.

Diolch. Fe wnaethoch chi sôn am sawl peth fanna—chi a'r Dirprwy Weinidog—ynglŷn â'r rhwystrau neu'r pethau strwythurol efallai sydd angen eu gwella i sicrhau bod y pontio yn well. I ba raddau y mae cost yn rhwystr o ran gweithredu'r canllawiau pontio da? Ydy'r gwasanaethau yma wedi cael eu cyllido'n ddigonol i allu cydymffurfio â'r canllawiau?

Thank you. You mentioned several issues there—you and the Deputy Minister—with regard to the barriers or the structural issues perhaps that need to be improved to ensure that that transition is better. To what extent is cost a barrier in terms of implementing the good transitions guidance? Are these services sufficiently funded to be able to comply with the guidance?

Well, I don't think cost is a barrier. Obviously, we are living in very difficult financial times, but we had a huge investment of additional funding for mental health, for this year and the forthcoming two years—£50 million this year. We've invested over £20 million in 2022-23 to drive forward the areas that we've identified as priorities, which includes CAMHS and services for young people. I think that funding is starting to make a difference. So, I don't think it's about money; I think the pressures are the ones that I've described, including workforce. But, having said that, if issues arise now from the workshops that Dave is chairing, then obviously we'll want to look at what we can do, within the very difficult financial constraints we're facing, to make sure that we can oil that system, as we need to.


A'r peth arall wnaethoch chi sôn amdano, wrth sôn am y trefniadau presennol o ran goruchwylio a monitro cydymffurfiaeth byrddau iechyd, gyda'r canllawiau pontio da, rŷch chi'n dweud am y transition leads yma sy'n bodoli. Ydych chi'n fodlon bod y rheini'n effeithiol, neu oes angen cryfhau y trefniadau monitro a goruchwylio yma?

And the other issue that you mentioned, in talking about the current arrangements in terms oversight and monitoring of compliance by health boards with these good transition guidance, you talked about these transition leads that exist. Are you content that they are efficient and effective, or do those arrangements on monitoring and oversight need to be strengthened?

Well, I think if you look at the guidance, it is very clear on the role of the transition leads; it's very clear about what kind of person, what the skills should be of a transition lead. But, for me, what is important is that it also sets out those accountability arrangements: they have to secure a strong partnership working across both children and adult services; they have to identify and solve problems and conflict at the earliest opportunity between children's and adult services. But there is also an accountability mechanism there, with them having to produce an annual report to the health board's quality and safety committee, and an expectation that they will actually escalate any problems to the health board's executive board as well. And then, the transition workers, who are—. You know, the guidance wants to work with young people; they should be feeding in to those transition leads, so that the transition leads have got the information and the data to really drive these policies in their own health boards.

Diolch. Ac rydych chi yn amlwg wedi dangos eich ymrwymiad chi i fynd i'r afael â'r broblem yma, felly allwch chi roi sicrwydd i'r pwyllgor y bydd y mater yma yn eitem sylweddol ar yr agenda i'w drafod yn y bwrdd cyflawni a goruchwylio gweinidogol ar iechyd meddwl?

Thank you. And you have clearly demonstrated your commitment to tackling this issue, so can you give us an assurance, as a committee, that this issue will be a substantive agenda item for discussion at the mental health and ministerial delivery and oversight board?

Well, at the moment, we are finalising the new work programme for the CAMHS work stream. We have got quite a number of items that we are having to include. We've got the delivery unit's review of CAMHS, which has been a very comprehensive piece of work that will generate lots of work for the system that we have to have implemented. We've got delivery unit recommendations on crisis care. But, the CAMHS work stream, then, does report directly to the delivery board, so there will be an opportunity to pick up these issues around transitions through my delivery board. But that's not the only mechanism that I intend to use. I had my quarterly meeting with the vice-chairs two weeks ago, and I made sure that I raised transitions with the vice-chairs as well. So, we will certainly look at using all the levers that we've got to make sure that it is understood, at grass-roots level, that driving this policy is a priority.

Diolch yn fawr. Diolch, Gadeirydd.

Thank you very much. Thank you, Chair.

Thank you, Sioned. Thank you for those answers, Deputy Minister. How are young people's experiences and outcomes being captured, and how is this information used to inform policy and service development?

Well, involving young people and having the views of young people is absolutely critical to the work that we're doing and something that I'm personally really committed to. I mean, when I was committee Chair, we said that we would always put the voices of young people at the centre of what we were doing, and I feel exactly the same as Deputy Minister. I think you can see that we are trying to do that through the work that we commissioned, with Tros Gynnal Plant, which has enabled us to identify problems that we needed to address, through the work that we've described today. We are committed across the board in our reforms with co-producing policies with young people. So, for example, our Nest framework has been co-produced with young people, and the final workshop that Dave is chairing will be with young people, where we'll have the opportunity to discuss with those young people the issues that have come out of the workshops, to get their views on how we can really take this work programme forward. So, you have my assurance that the views of young people will be central to our work in this area. 


Brilliant. And in terms of how that develops, how will things be reported back to those young people as policies change to ensure that they're still—? Obviously, they will be at the heart of it in developing it, but how do you continue to ensure that it's reported back to them and their experiences are continuously heard?

Well, the young people who attend the workshops will obviously have feedback on the work that's been done so far, and we're including the Tros Gynnal Plant young people in those workshops, but also, there's an ongoing programme of work to engage with young people. We have our youth stakeholder group, which is facilitated by Children in Wales, and I met with them about three weeks ago now. So, there's an ongoing programme of work to make sure that we are having that constant dialogue with young people, and I've been really clear with officials that this is an area that I really want to focus on, particularly with the development of the new strategy.

I've only just stopped being chair of Children in Wales, so everything I do is going to involve the voice of young people, and I should say, alongside the national stuff, there's also more local work as well. So, all health boards are increasing their participation work with young people across the board. There's a stream of work in the mental health programme about collecting person-centred, goal-based outcome measures for children and young people, obviously for wider than just transition, but this is going to be key to that. And then, during people's annual appraisals and things like that, the voice of service users and clients is part and parcel of that, and we would expect services and health boards to have all those different layers of young persons' information feeding in, because we know that young people aren't a homogenous group; there are lots and lots of different layers, and we need to make sure that we hear from every group—those who are having a nice time, but also those who aren't perhaps using the services as much as we would want them to and expect them to.

Thank you. What do we know about the experiences and outcomes of the transition to adult services for young people from different groups, for example, care-experienced young people, young people with autism or neurodivergent conditions? Do you have any—?

Well, obviously, if someone has got another condition or other challenges, then what is already a difficult time for young people is going to be compounded, isn't it, by the transition process, and we're really mindful of that. One of the key principles in the guidance is that health boards must work to ensure that young people who may face more barriers in accessing support have measures put in place to mitigate this situation. From the workshops, we understand that this is more of a problem in some health boards than others, and we're hoping to be able to draw on this good practice when the workshops are finished to see how we can replicate that in other health boards.

Julie Morgan leads on neurodiversity services in Wales, but we do work very closely together. You'll be aware that there was a demand and capacity review of all ND conditions services earlier this year, and a package of £12 million of additional funding has been announced with a work programme. That work programme has commenced, and during November, officials held a series of engagement events with stakeholders across Wales to ensure that the programme is meeting their priorities for action, and we are intending to publish a summary report on that. That programme has several work streams that are being taken forward. So, I think that issues around transition will come out through that as well as through the workshops that Dave is chairing, but it's very important that the health boards follow what's in the guidance to make sure that they do take account of any additional barriers that young people may face. I think Tracey wants to come in.

Thank you, Minister. It was just to say, really, that I think that point about different groups and those with co-occurring conditions is particularly important then—that the guidance is across all services in the way that it is, the February 2022 guidance, because I think there have been some views expressed around having separate, perhaps, guidance for children in mental health services, and while we need to do focused work in that area, there is an advantage, I think, in having guidance that sits across the whole system, precisely for the reasons that the committee's picked up on there, which is around those children and young people who will have co-occurring conditions.


I know that the committee has a particular interest and focus at the moment on care-experienced young people. Just to assure the committee that that is reflected in the guidance. There are specific steps that are meant to be taken to ensure that transitions can be managed effectively for care-experienced young people, recognising that they're already facing some very significant challenges.

Absolutely. Young people have also described to us a lack of understanding around autism and the appropriate diagnosis of personality disorders and an overreliance on and an overprescribing of medication. Is this something that you've recognised as well? And what's Welsh Government doing to address that?

I do recognise the issues, yes, and an important part of the work that's being done following the publication of the code of practice on autism services, which was published in September last year, places duties on public services to raise awareness of autism and make sure that the workforce has suitable training and understanding to support people who are neurodivergent. And we're working, through the national autism team, to raise awareness amongst all services, and they've developed training for a variety of organisations and for practitioners, including within CAMHS.

In terms of incorrect diagnoses and use of medication, we've also established a clinical advisory group for the neurodivergence programme, which is going to be providing expert advice on specialist assessment and to support service improvement. But, as you know as well, the whole thrust of our policy in Welsh Government is geared towards prevention, early intervention, and preventing problems escalating. So, the intention, obviously, is to help young people before they reach that stage and to hopefully avoid any inappropriate interventions.

Okay, thank you. I'll move on now to some questions from Buffy Williams. Buffy.

Thank you, Chair, and thank you for joining us this morning. My first question is a question from a young person. Are you aware of the drastic differences between CAMHS and adult mental health services and the amount of responsibility that moving into adult services places on very vulnerable people who may not be ready but who also may not be able to fully take charge of their own well-being and safety?

Well, I am aware of how difficult the transition is. We've known for a long time that this is a challenging area for young people, which is why we're focusing on trying to do something about it. The whole thrust of the guidance is designed to make that process better for young people. It's about engaging early with young people to have those conversations, ensuring that young people have the information and advice that they need early on in the process to facilitate that process more easily. But, obviously, we have to do more in the space of making sure that that guidance is implemented uniformly across Wales. But I absolutely recognise how incredibly difficult this is for young people, and the last thing I want is for young people to face a cliff edge at 18. Everything we're doing is designed to stop that happening, and I want to see services framed around young people rather than, as I said in the last committee, shoehorning young people into the services that exist. And the whole ethos of all our reforms across the board, really, not just in this area, are around that 'no wrong door' approach for everyone.

Okay. And how will you work with health boards to ensure that young people are better informed and equipped for the move to adult services?

Well, as I said, there's a very strong emphasis in the guidance on making sure that those conversations happen with young people, that there's a partnership with young people at an early stage, so they're not suddenly surprised by being told that they're going to transition to adult services. And what we need to unpick with these workshops and any work that we do arising from that is the extent to which that is happening on the ground. We are making progress, but there's clearly more work that we need to do, and the intelligence that we get from the workshops will be fundamental to giving us an action plan that we can make sure, then, is implemented across Wales. 


I was just going to say that emerging themes are better person-centred, goal-based outcome care plans that focus on the transition process, together with really good information about the services that you are moving to and how they operate help you marry up need and service delivered, and also the sorts of skills and sorts of capacity people might need to move into those services, and then to identify the sort of support from transition workers, peer support, and a number of different models, to help people move satisfactorily into those services. 

It also ties in with workforce development, because there's a variety of how well professionals, on both sides of the divide, work alongside 16, 17, 18 and 19-year-olds. It is a different group to 12-year-olds, it's a different group to 28-year-olds, and we're not always conscious of the nuanced skills that are required. So, we need people—. There is good practice; we need to make that good practice common and normal across it.

And, then, finally, we need to make sure we've thought whether the service model and service delivery, and range and menu, is appropriate and meets the need of that particular age group. And what we're seeing is, since the transition leads have come in, many of the health boards have set up transition boards. Through the workshop, we're really getting to the granularity of what are the sorts of things that we could implement, not from massive changes or big new services as much as improved practice, implementing stuff that we've already agreed is a good thing in a more consistent way. Information for services is helpful whatever you do. So, there are a couple of things that just are raising the bar across the board for things. 

Thank you. My next question is: Mind Cymru's 'Sort the Switch' report found that many young people receive no offer of advocacy support even though they have clear need. What action will you take to ensure that young people moving from specialist child and adolescent mental health services to adult mental health services can access support from an advocate?

Thank you, Buffy, and, clearly, advocacy is a really important area, and some young people have a statutory right to advocacy. So, if they are in-patients receiving treatment under the Mental Health Act, or informal patients, then they have a statutory right to advocacy; they have a statutory right to independent mental health advocacy under Part 4 of the Mental Health (Wales) Measure 2010. We've got the liberty protection safeguards legislation changing in Wales as well now, and we've also made additional funding available to health boards to increase the independent mental capacity advocacy provision that will replace the deprivation of liberty safeguards as the system that deals with any arrangements that could amount to a deprivation of liberty. And LPS, as a new piece of legislation, will cover 16 and 17-year-olds, and we've allocated an extra £2.35 million to health boards this year to increase the IMCA provision in preparation for that. 

The transition guidance is very clear about the importance of advocacy, but we do recognise there's more that we need to do in this space. So, there is, at the moment, I think, a gap for young people who don't meet that threshold for statutory advocacy. That's something that's also been raised with us by the children's commissioner. And we did have a plan of work under way to adopt a new approach to non-statutory, health-based advocacy for children and young people that would ensure that it was available to all children and young people in the CAMHS system. A set of core principles for advocacy had been developed and work had begun on the development of guidance to deliver that advocacy system for those young people, but, unfortunately, when the pandemic hit, we did have to redeploy resources, and we weren't able to complete that work, although I have now asked officials to pick up that work—and they're going to be doing that—and work with the all-Wales advocacy forum to decide how best we can take that forward. So, there is definitely more work to do in the advocacy space.


Thank you. Good to see you this morning, Deputy Minister. I've got a couple of questions from young people. We heard from one young person that was going through a CAMHS assessment, and under CAMHS, that they were told by their team that when they turned 18 all the support they were receiving would end, the moment that they had that eighteenth birthday. You can imagine the pressure that put on that young person, and the pressure put on their family as well. They were making good progress, and their view is that why is that arbitrary age number of 18 prioritised over a young person's mental health and well-being, and wouldn't it be better if they could carry on for a little bit longer under CAMHS until they are mentally better to go back into society and integrate properly, rather than saying at 18, 'That's it, you're out'?

Well, what you've described is a case study in what shouldn't happen, isn't it, really? I know that there are lots and lots of practitioners who do not operate like that, and indeed the whole basis of this guidance is to allow that flexibility. It's to ensure that information is provided long before they reach 18, and engagement, discussions, for them to start to think about that, but also it clearly provides the flexibility to keep young people in the system beyond the age of 18. As you say, it's not a magic number, and I know from talking to Dave that there are lots and lots of clinicians who hold on to young people beyond the age of 18 for exactly the reasons that you've said.

I think we need to separate poor practice of individuals on individual teams with what the strategy says, because the strategy absolutely says that that shouldn't be the case—that, over the transition age group, you should be wrapping services around and flexibly using from the adult menu and the children's menu over that time. As I say, it's an incorrect message. If you look at the average age that people transfer into adult services, it's 18 plus, and certainly, in my career, I have many children who I see to nearer their nineteenth birthday, and sometimes past it, to make sure there is a safe and soft landing. So, there is nothing in practice or policy that says that should be the thing you say, and it's a really poor element of practice, and I'd be encouraging that young person to take that up with their local health board, basically.

I will, briefly, if that's okay, just to add really, I think, as the Deputy Minister said, in all of the strengthened monitoring arrangements that we're putting in place around this and will be, that underlines the importance of retaining the young person's view coming through as part of that. We will be investing in the monitoring, but I think it's ensuring that we don't just rely on standard reporting; that we embed the young people's views as part of that monitoring, moving forward, which is the intention.

So, how can we get young people more involved in their transition, to be part of that discussion, really, so that that can be had with the young person and their families and so it isn't being taken by a team somewhere, about their transition, and that that young person is involved in that, to explain where they are with things and how their mental health has been affected by everything?

Well, I think it's the implementation of the guidance, really. It's all in there. It's a very strong document. It's a very rights-based and person-centred document. So, I think if we can get this guidance working across Wales, then that should deal with these problems. The problem that we've got, as I said before, is an implementation gap between what is a really good policy and what's happening on the ground.

I would argue that that should be good practice across your service area, so you shouldn't only be listening to the voice of young people when it comes to transition. It's actually really important that we use person-centred outcome measures where the voice of the young person is heard in all the treatment. So, by the time it comes to transition, they're used to having their voice heard, and the advocacy offer supports them in that.

Okay. I'm just going to bring Ken Skates in and then I'll come to Laura.

Thanks, Chair. Just in regard to Dr Williams's assessment of poor practice, with some practitioners not applying flexibility and being pretty rigid in their approach, how widespread is this, and what do you believe the reasons are for some deciding to create that cliff edge at 18?


Well, what we're trying to do through the implementation leads is to see how widespread it is because, obviously, we've had the report from Mind, we've had the report from TGP, which have expressed bad and good experiences and we take those seriously. So, we want to see how widespread it is. Certainly, in the services I've been running, it hasn't been widespread and we haven't had those sorts of complaints made against us.

The reasons for it are, sometimes, because sharing person-centred practice requires you to share risk with the patient and some people and professionals find that quite challenging, particularly if they're not well supported or as supported as they need to be by the organisations that they work in. Obviously, pressures of workload and waiting lists and all those sorts of things can have an impact as well. So, we absolutely need to make sure that the quality of service remains paramount. And the way we measure efficacy and efficiency and how the service works needs to be done in a way that enables good quality and the right children's-rights approach to be maintained rather than perverse incentives to the short-cut, limited, minimalist service offer, which is no good for certainly the young person but, I would argue, the professional as well.

Thank you, Chair. Just following on from that, if the guidance is there, why do you think that young people are presenting to us like they do feel like it's a cliff edge still? Is there a communication breakdown that that's not what you've said—that the guidance has not been translated to the young people, to the patients well enough, and maybe in layman's terms almost, because they are still pretty much children? So, maybe it needs to be really, really clear guidance set out to them so that they don't feel like there's a cliff edge, if you said there isn't one.

Well, there shouldn't be, because we acknowledge there is for certain people because of the way services are run.

And there is a young person's version of the transition guidance and it was co-produced with young people, so I can give you that assurance as well.

And we know there are certain areas where it works better. So, with services that have that model of putting young people centrally, for example, like early interventions in psychosis, we're starting to see the same in eating disorders as well, where services are more commonly working along together. It's quite clear that this particular issue will be dealt with equally by CAMHS and special adult mental health services. If the young person's care plan is made central, then transition is improved. It's against the background of massively increasing numbers. So, when I started as a consultant 25 years ago, it was a handful of people we transferred to adult services every year. Nowadays, the number of people is that much bigger. If you've got severe mental illness, it tends to work slightly better in that there is clarity in terms of which service is going to pick the service up and you can work on building those bridges if you're around for a while. It's that big growth area of emotional poor health and well-being, anxiety and depression where that work is still not as good as it should be, and the numbers are huge because the numbers of people presenting with that are huge.

And I think it's important to emphasise as well that the guidance was only published in February this year and we haven't rested on our laurels—we immediately commissioned the TGP work, engaged with Mind and now we're doing this follow-up work through the workshops to address the issues that have come out, raised by young people.

What consideration has the Welsh Government given to extending the age range of young people's mental health services up to 25? And what work are you doing on that currently, Minister?

Okay, well, the committee, I'm sure, will be aware that 'Mind over matter' recommended that Welsh Government looked at extending services up to the age of 25. I must admit that, at the time, I found that a very appealing idea. We know that adolescent brains don't stop developing until they're 25, so I was personally very keen on that. And there have then been a number of reviews following those recommendations. We had the review of all-age mental health services and then we commissioned the NHS collaborative to do a specific piece of work, looking at whether services should be extended to the age of 25 and whether that would actually resolve the issues around transition. And what the collaborative report found was that there were numerous issues that require more consideration before making such a change, and also that there was a lack of data and outcomes information to support that change, and the report also advised that there should be further consultation with young people and their families—also with the workforce, because, obviously, there are significant workforce issues with changing the age range—so, the work that we're doing so far has been consistent with those findings.

But we are keeping that under review, and the collaborative looked at international evidence and everything, and we want to make this guidance work now, but, as we look at our new strategy as well, we're very open to looking at what more we can do. But what we have to do is do things that are evidence based and not going to have unintended consequences for young people or the workforce.


[Inaudible.] So, cost isn't an issue to extend at 25; it's just you need to find out more information about it. So, this isn't something that is off the table, shall we say? This is on the table; it just needs a lot more information to bring it to fruition.

Well, I mean cost, I don't see—. Obviously, cost is an issue with everything at the moment, isn't it? But I've been really clear about the additional investment we're making in mental health services, and what I want to do is see services that work for young people. But the collaborative, when they did that piece of work for us, didn't find clear evidence that extending to the age of 25 would help. There would be unintended consequences, because, obviously, you then shift lots of young people from a different part of the system into the CAMHS system, where we already know we are facing huge pressures, higher acuity et cetera. I know that some of the clinicians weren't keen on the idea, but also, for me, fundamentally, we'd have to really engage with young people. Lots of young people wouldn't want to stay in the CAMHS system until they were 25. We need to take on board those views as well, but, as we look at the new strategy, I'm keen that we, as part of the 'no wrong door' work that we're doing—. So, we're reforming adult services as well; we're making those more accessible, tier 0, tier 1, trying to drive that 'no wrong door' approach into adult services as well, and I'm keen that we take account of the needs of that age group. I've got an adolescent son myself; we all know how much additional support young people need, and it definitely doesn't stop at the age of 18, and I'm keen that the work on the new strategy takes into account the needs of that age group. And we're trying to do that in education as well; we've got a piece of work looking at transitions in education as part of the advisory board that I'm going to be chairing on post-16 education as well. I think that's a recognition that this group of young people, they're not children, but they're not fully adults either, and we have to take account of that.

Okay. You touched on CAMHS there, and I've got a final question from a young person. What they're saying to us is they find that cost is usually an excuse for not extending CAMHS provision, and they'd like to know what savings can be made to budgets to ensure that young people can be helped properly and discharged safely. I know you mentioned earlier, Minister—. You said that money was starting to make a difference in CAMHS. I just wonder if you can actually tell us where you think that money is making a difference, and what the outcomes are for this additional investment, because I think all of us around this table are hearing from young people, about CAMHS provision, that it's not fit for purpose at the minute. And I have one further question, if you'll indulge me, Chair, after the Deputy Minister has answered about giving to CAMHS.

Well, as I said, I don't think this is about cost, because we are investing huge sums of additional money in mental health services. If it was just about the money, my life would be an awful lot easier. This is about other pressures within the system, the numbers, the acuity; we've got massive workforce pressures in mental health services. That's why delivering the Health Education and Improvement Wales and social care mental health workforce plan is such a priority for me, because that will really, I think, put us on a sustainable footing going forward.

And we are seeing the benefits of that investment, James; we're seeing it in eating disorder services, which I know is a critical area for transitions. We've got more work to do, but we have invested lots of extra money. All health boards are now working to improvement plans on eating disorder services; they're reporting to Welsh Government. As I said the last time I appeared before the committee, we are meeting all our targets now in terms of meeting the specialist CAMHS four-week waiting time, and some areas like Powys have got a 100 per cent rate of seeing those young people within four weeks. The work that the delivery unit has done, which will be really important in making sure that our primary mental health services and all those services are working effectively as well, will be really important in delivering that.

So, we are seeing progress, but we've got more to do, and I think it's really important as well to say that you have to set these—. People talk about specialist CAMHS; we don't want children ending up in specialist CAMHS if we can possibly avoid it. We want young people receiving support where they live their lives—in schools, in early help and enhanced support through the youth service. We don't want them ending up in specialist CAMHS. So, all our efforts are focused on making sure that we intervene early and prevent them having to end up in specialist CAMHS in the first place.


Yes, I'll try and be quick. Thank you. Dr Williams, you talked earlier about—. And the Minister just said we want people to be treated early, we don't want people to go into CAMHS, and that is right, but what we're hearing as a committee is, when young people are going to their GPs, they're not being signposted anywhere; they're just being pushed back out the door. How are Welsh Government going to ensure that our GPs, our schools, our colleges, our universities know how to signpost people where they need to go, because we have people coming to us with eating disorders who basically have got to be dying to be seen and get help? That's just not good enough, and we need to know, and the GPs, clinicians and others need to know, where can they signpost people to get help, because, at the minute, from the evidence I've taken, I don't think that's feeding through the system.

I'm going to bring Tracey in to talk about the work that we're doing around primary care, because the situation you've described absolutely shouldn't be happening.

Thank you, Minister. So, within the strategic programme for primary care, we've got a specific sub-group in that looking at mental health and well-being, and, as part of that work, there's been a very robust look, really, at the services that are out there and demand. I think it's fair to say that there's more work to do on communicating with primary care clinicians about the help that is available, and so that's definitely one of the work streams that we're picking up now as part of that dedicated work around primary care. The only other thing I was going to add is: within the more than £20 million that's been made available for mental health services improvement funding, £5 million of that has been allocated to health boards specifically for tier 0, tier 1 primary care work, and we've encouraged health boards, obviously, to use the third sector in providing that, because that, generally, is a very good way of reaching certain groups, particularly of young people, as part of that.

We've also got the whole-school approach. The model should be that every primary care practice and every school at, probably, secondary school cluster, has some named CAMHS professionals who they see in the building from time to time, and that was the intention in 2019, 2020. People haven't been able to meet face to face. Because, actually, we want to make the system as easy as possible to have that conversation, 'I have a problem with this young person. Where's the best place to send them?'

There's a second part to that: therefore, have we got the services available to meet those particular needs? As I say, if things are more severe, then, by and large, there are, but, when things are emerging or we're wanting to give more preventative support services, those services are still growing, and they're not there are consistently as we can. It comes back to using the information, the transition leads for the health boards not only looking at the numbers, but what are the services that these young people require. We have to have a form-follows-function approach, and what we're hearing is some of those functions and services aren't as robust as they should be. They need to be in place first before we decide how we organise them.

And all parts of Wales now—. Welsh Government has funded CAMHS in-reach workers for all parts of Wales, so all schools should be benefiting from that opportunity to have that input from a CAMHS professional. That's working in different ways in different parts of Wales. So, in some parts of Wales, they're providing a consultancy service, in others they're training the school staff so that they can have those conversations with young people, and we've invested £5 million in that. What we want to do is keep those kids out of CAMHS, really, and having their support where they live their lives.


Just really quickly, talking about preventative, I visited a school in Newport and Newport Mind went in there and it was so popular that they were there from—. They started off with two days a week and it went to five days a week. How are you working with those outside bodies who obviously are in contact with our young people to ensure that they're signposting to the right places?

Well, the work that Tracey mentioned through the strategic programme for primary care is key. I've also visited, I think, the same school in Newport, as has the Chair, and I know that Newport Mind has done some really good work with the school in Newport that's really important. It's not going to look the same everywhere, is it? Newport have decided to work with Mind; other schools are doing it differently. But what is important is that all young people have a consistent offer in the school setting to support their mental health. That's why we've got the statutory guidance on the whole-school approach and why the education Minister and I are really stepping up now on the delivery. We're refocusing the delivery body for the whole-school approach work to make sure that that is consistent across Wales.

Just before we move on to your question, Ken Skates, just to clarify, what's the status of the 2017 guidance on good transitions? Are there plans to update it in light of the review and the wider work, including the Mind Sort the Switch campaign? How does that good transition guidance align with the wider NHS transition and handover guidance published in February 2022, which you mentioned?

The February 2022 guidance supercedes the 2017 guidance now, so that's what we're working on. That covers all young people, whatever their needs are. So, that is the document that is the most up to date.

Brilliant, thank you. Thank you for clarifying that. Questions now from Ken Skates.

Thanks, Chair. Can I just begin by asking what proportion of young people aren't transitioning to adult mental health services?

Ken, we don't have that information at the moment. It's not always easy to count that information. I think there's a question about whether someone transitioning to adult services is a successful outcome or an unsuccessful outcome, really. There are things that are challenging to count there, really, but we are developing outcomes measurement work in CAMHS, and indeed across mental health services in Wales as a whole, that will help us to get to that data. Also, the work that we're doing through the workshops will, hopefully, give us a better picture of the numbers. But we don't have the actual numbers at the moment.

Just out of interest, and I doubt that the data could be provided today, but is there any data relating to the proportion of young people who have accessed mental health services and then, upon becoming young adults, the proportion that have ended up in the criminal justice system? Are those pathways, those journeys, of young people—are they registered and followed?

I don't believe we have that data at the moment, but I'll bring Tracey in.

I was just going to confirm, really, as part of the data and evaluation point. So, we've asked the NHS delivery unit to develop a transitions evaluation model. The work on that is currently looking at what data would you need to have in order to have a good evaluation of transitions.

Okay. Okay, thank you. What are the reasons why thresholds for adult mental health services are higher than for children's services? Do you think that that might have an impact in terms of transitions, an adverse impact?

Well, I don't think it's so much that the thresholds are higher; it's that the services are different, really. Dave has talked a bit about that this morning already. So, in CAMHS, you have lots of young people who are accessing the family support service, where the therapy is delivered to the whole family. Obviously, that's not something that's going to happen in adult services. We know too that some of the people who are being supported by specialist CAMHS don't have a mental illness diagnosis, whereas to be part of a secondary service in adult mental health services, you would expect somebody to have a mental health diagnosis. We know that CAMHS sees a lot of young people who are distressed, who are what clinicians sometimes call emotionally dysregulated, although I don't like the term very much, really. So, it is a different kind of service.

I also think we need to take into account the fact that we're changing adult services as well, and we're working really hard to make sure that there is a 'no wrong door' approach to adult services as well. If you've got a mental health issue as an adult, you've got primary mental health services, you've got the third sector services that we provide, so it is a different picture, really. I think what's important is that when the transition workers are having those conversations with young people, they're really having those conversations early on about the support that is available for adults who are suffering with their mental health. I also think it's really important to remember that we don't want people to spend their lives in mental health services; we want young people to recover and move on with their lives. So, I don't think there should be an expectation that they're automatically going to go from CAMHS into adult services and stay there for years and years. Tracey wants to come in.


Just onto the back on that, just to say that what's important there is that people can go along the spectrum—so, that tier 0 offer that we talked about, and having things like SilverCloud as a tool, and other support mechanisms being there when someone is recovering but can't manage without any help and support. It's about having the whole spectrum.  

Okay. Apologies if it's a perception issue, then, but we did hear from young people and young adults their concerns about thresholds being different. Is it the case that you're telling us, assuring us, that thresholds between specialist CAMHS and adult mental services are perfectly aligned and that thresholds are not an issue in reality? 

I'll ask Dave to explain this, because he can probably do it better than me.

The reality is that adult services are set up for a severely mentally ill population and historically come from in-patient services, whereas children's services have been more community based. So, the thresholds between what we consider to be specialist adult mental health services and specialist CAMHS services are different. However, in the range of adult mental health services provided by the health board, the thresholds aren't different, it's just that it's not a nice, neat symbiosis where one service will always transition to another one service. It comes back to some of the earlier answers whereby the challenge is matching the need in children's services, when they may be under CAMHS, to maybe one of several different services available in adult services, and choosing the one that best meets their need. There hasn't been enough work on explaining those services, describing those services, so that both the clinicians but, most importantly, the young people and the families have confidence that this isn't a second-best offer, this is the service that will best meet your needs. It happens not to be called specialist adult mental health services, but that's a good thing, because it's not the service that focuses on in-patient wards and severe mental illness. So, there's work to be done in building up trust, but also just getting the description of what the totality of adult mental health services mean; it's not just the specialist adult mental health services that we know of 20, 30 years ago, which were very much hospital and old asylum-based services. 

I want to keep adults out of secondary mental health services as well by supporting adults in lower-level mental health support. And just to add as well that one of the things that the delivery unit found in their review of CAMHS for us was that even within CAMHS there are different thresholds, within different CAMHS teams, so it is quite difficult to measure like for like. The delivery unit in the recommendations that they're making to Welsh Government will hopefully enable us to have a more consistent framework for CAMHS across Wales, which will hopefully help.


Just one final question from me. I'm going to back to data, if I may. Has there been an assessment conducted into the level of unmet need for mental health support amongst young adults who didn't transition to adult services?

Again, we don't have the actual data on this, but we do take lots of steps as Welsh Government to measure unmet need, which we've been doing for years now, whether that's public health surveys, whether it's the other work that Welsh Government does through their survey work. But it's very difficult to quantify unmet need, isn't it, really. Because as well we're trying to encourage people to get help from lower-level support, then we're hoping that those opportunities will be taken up. But it is an area of consideration for us, and part of the work that we'll do on the new strategy will also look at that. Did you want to add anything on that?

Just that it's similar to the earlier point about that evaluation model, because if the question is about what data do we have about how many children and young people don't successfully transition to adult, we need to look at what data is available to us, and if the data isn't available, what data need we might have to better understand that, I think, as part of that work.

Can I just ask what might be a really simple and dumb question, but I'd certainly benefit from the answer? When a young person goes through CAMHS services, do they undergo any form of exit interview to assess whether they'd like to continue with some form of mental health support—not necessarily through adult services, but some form of support, whether it be through health services or the third sector?

It's fundamental to the transition guidance that those conversations are happening all the time, and happening early on, really, and also that support is put in place then once they do transition so that there is that connection with the previous service as well. I wouldn't really call it an exit interview, but it is key to this guidance that they are having those conversations, having their views listened to and checked, but also being informed about what adult services are available, because it's really important that young people understand what's available, and that it's not always about having a secondary mental health service, but it is about support within the community. 

Just following up on the point I made about unmet need, then, if their voices are being heard throughout, then surely the system should be able to record whether or not they need ongoing help, and if they don't then get that help, then they'd be classed as having unmet needs.

I think we're seeing in the health boards—. All health boards have got transition leads. Many of the health boards have set up transition fora where they are discussing and revealing precisely these sorts of things. So, is it something wrong with the process we put through, is it a problem with not listening to young people, or is it a problem with the matching up of services, particularly for people who—we've already explained—find the normal services model difficult to access anyway? Have we got the right services in place? We are starting to see that work done at health board level, but it's early days, and people haven't converted that to saying, 'Okay, therefore how do we need to either amend the system or change our service offer?' 

And I'm really keen to see the good practice that we're seeing in some health boards adopted in all health boards, so that we can have that learning. 

Thank you, Ken, and thank you, Deputy Minister. I know that we're running over time, but would you be okay if we just asked another—? I know you've been very generous with your time here. Do you mind if we just ask some questions? One from James, and then moving to Laura. 

You mentioned a lower level of support, and a lot of that is delivered by the third sector. One thing I have heard, and I'm sure others have heard, is that they really do struggle with ongoing funding. They have great projects put in place for six months, they deliver great outcomes, keep people out of primary care, out of those higher levels of support, CAMHS or a higher level of adult services and interventions, the funding stops and then those people end up on that revolving door element, they're back into more primary services, the funding comes back and then they're back out again. I know you've invested more money into mental health services, but how can we ensure that more of that money is going to the third sector to the lower-level support, and doesn't get held up in health boards, really, and actually goes out on the ground to help some of these lower-level projects be delivered longer term, rather than the six months and they drop off again? 


Thanks. I think it's important to recognise that we can only sustainably fund organisations if we get sustainable funding from Westminster, and when we were on annual budgets, that was very difficult. Obviously, now we've got a three-year budget, so we have tried to build that into what we're doing. As Tracey said, we've allocated £5 million to health boards for lower-level support, and we have told them that we expect that to be spent on third sector organisations. And also, we are procuring some services nationally on a more sustainable basis over the three years. So, I entirely recognise—. I worked in the third sector myself before I became an MS; I know what that hand-to-mouth thing is like, and we don't want to see that, and we're trying to do what we can to mitigate that. 

I know Tracey wants to come in. I'll be very—. Sorry, Chair, but I think it's important. 

It's Christmas, as the Llywydd told us yesterday. On the third sector, that £5 million, that's welcome, but what monitoring—that's why I wanted you to come in, Tracey, because it's probably Welsh Government that do this—are you doing to make sure that that money isn't being absorbed in bureaucracy in health boards? Because we all know how things work—they set up departments and employ different people to make sure this money is being delivered, and then the money doesn't actually go to where it needs to go. So, what monitoring are you doing as Welsh Government to make sure it's actually being delivered, and not just being swallowed up in bureaucracy in health boards? 

Shall I take that, Minister? Basically, in the service improvement funding letter that was issued confirming the £5 million that the Deputy Minister has mentioned, we made it very clear in that letter that that money was for third sector-delivered programmes, and when the service improvement plans come in from health boards, we scrutinise those plans, basically, to check that that money has gone in a way that was in line with the letter. 

The only other thing I was just going to say really quickly is that I completely recognise this point about continuity of funding, and it's the reason that we've moved away from the section 64 funding that was in place, because that was precisely the issue—it was time-limited funding that was very difficult. So, this move to having more money, actually, as part of the service improvement funding pot is about sustainability. 

The last thing was that review of primary care that I mentioned found, actually—I haven't got the figure to hand with me today—that we can quantify the amount of money that is being spent on vital third sector-provided mental health support across Wales.

And we do monitor all the SIF funding really closely, not just at the end of the year but after three months, and then another three months, because, obviously, when money is tight, we have to make sure we're getting the best bang for the buck.

We've certainly been doing NHS benchmarking for about five, 10 years that looks at conversion of money through to people on the ground, so we're able to track the sum that comes out of Welsh Government to where it makes a difference to the workforce, for example. 

Just on the third sector support, we had a visit here in the Senedd from a young girl who's being supported by Action for Children, a fantastic scheme, but one of the things that really came through on that visit with her, her support worker and her mother was they felt there was a stopwatch on it. The outcomes were incredible. The support worker and the mother couldn't say enough about it, and actually said that they'd been much better supported by Action for Children than the health services, than their GP, who they'd literally had five-minute conversations with on the phone, and nothing more—the child had never been seen face to face. But, it was 12 weeks and it finished, and it was a stopwatch. So, I just wanted to get assurance. We've talked a lot about sustainability of CAMHS services and cliff edges, but with that third sector support as well that is being funded, can we make sure—? What is your opinion on making sure there's no cliff edge to that support either? 

I know cliff edges are not great for anyone that's having treatment. We see it with school counselling as well—the six sessions become a thing that you're aiming for, and really worried about. So, I'm not really keen on cliff edges generally, but, obviously, there's an issue with making sure that everybody can access services as well. I would want to do what we can as Government to make sure that there is that flexibility, but it's not always easy when numbers are rising and money is tight. But, certainly, I would want services to always be trying to be as person centred as they can be, and young-person centred.


Thank you, Chair. Thank you for your time. Just going back to care and treatment plans, do you think that improving the accessibility and quality of care and treatment plans would go some way to tackling the issues experienced by young people, as described in 'Sort the Switch'? And will you commit to looking at this, bearing in mind that a lot of young people aren't even aware that they have a treatment plan? Thank you.

Just to say, on care and treatment planning, we do monitor care and treatment planning, and the delivery unit did a review of care and treatment planning as well, and they told us that we do need to improve the quality of those plans. As a result of that, health boards are now reporting progress on care and treatment planning as part of the 'Together for Mental Health' monitoring arrangements, and we get updates on that every six months. So, this is something that we're continuing to work on, but not all young people will need a care and treatment plan as well—it would only be young people who would be in secondary services.

Everybody needs a plan of care and treatment; only a small proportion need a care and treatment plan under the mental health Measure. I believe that everybody having a good plan of care and treatment, and those who need it under the Measure getting it under the Measure, is a vital way of taking things forward, particularly if it's co-produced—well, it has to be co-produced—with the young people, that it focuses on their outcomes, their goals, because it helps us to focus on their particular stage of treatment, such as transition, but also to monitor the effectiveness of our services.

Absolutely. Thank you. And finally, wrapping up, your last question: what are the key priority actions you will take to deliver tangible improvements in the transitions process for all young people, and what timescales will you commit to this? You said earlier about the quick fixes, so, those and the bigger actions. Thank you.

Well, obviously, we've got the workshops, so the most important priority at the moment now is to have the outcomes from the workshops, particularly to hear what the young people think about what we've found, and then that will turn into a work plan, some of which will be led by the NHS Wales Health Collaborative, and I will want to see tangible actions and also timescales attached to that. But also, as you know, we're reviewing our 'Together for Mental Health' strategy; we're also going to want to look at the area of transitions as part of the work that we're doing on that, on a longer term basis. But I think the guidance gives us the route-map; it's implementation that we've got to be focused on.

Okay. Thank you. And thank you, Deputy Minister, and your officials, for coming in today. Thank you for the extended time as well—very much appreciate that. And once again, thank you to all of those young people that have put those questions in, and we really appreciate you listening to those as well today, and answering those questions. You will receive a transcript in due course, to check for accuracy. I just hope that you have a very merry Christmas, and a good break as well. So, thank you for coming in. Diolch yn fawr.

5. Papurau i'w nodi
5. Papers to note

We'll move on to item 5, which is papers to note. There are nine papers to note. Are Members content to note those papers? Yes, Members are content. We'll now move on to item 6. So, we'll now proceed in private.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:13.

The public part of the meeting ended at 11:13.


Ailymgynullodd y pwyllgor yn gyhoeddus am 11:29.

The committee reconvened in public at 11:29.

7. Gwrandawiad cyn penodi Cadeirydd y Comisiwn Addysg Drydyddol ac Ymchwil
7. Chair of the Commission for Tertiary Education and Research pre-appointment hearing

We'll now move on to item 7, which is chair of the Commission for Tertiary Education and Research pre-appointment hearing. I'd like to welcome and introduce the Welsh Government's preferred candidate for chair of the Commission for Tertiary Education and Research, Professor Dame Julie Lydon. You're very welcome here this morning; nice to see you. And, just to clarify that the appointments of the chair and deputy chair are made by the Welsh Government. This committee and the Senedd more widely has no formal role in the recruitment process, however, it is an opportunity for the committee to scrutinise the Welsh Government's preferred candidate before the appointments are confirmed. So, we've got a number of questions to put to you this morning, and just before I go into that, I need to just check if there are any declarations of interest. Sioned Williams.

Mae fy ngŵr yn gyflogedig gan Brifysgol Abertawe. Diolch.

My husband is employed by Swansea University. Thank you.


Thank you, Sioned. Any other declarations? No. Right, we'll move on to questions for you. So, what is your motivation for applying to be chair of the commission?

So, as you know, I retired 18 months ago from the University of South Wales and, in my retirement, I wanted to be able to give back to society and community. I am doing some things in England that are demonstrating that, and this opportunity came up and I thought it was a good opportunity for me to be able to demonstrate that giving back. And I also believe I have the qualities and experience that would be valuable to the chair's position. So, if you like, it was that fortunate combination of: it was the right timing and I thought it was a good opportunity for me.

Thank you. And what are your reflections on post-16 education in Wales at the current time, and how do you think the implementation of the Tertiary Education and Research (Wales) Act 2022 will affect the sector?

So, the sector at the moment, of course, is not really seen as one single sector. I think this is the remarkable thing about the Bill; it is significant in the Government's intent to move to that post-16 environment. So, the state of education, I would say we've got some good things and we've got some things that we need to look at, as you might expect. I clearly know a lot more about further education and higher education than I do about sixth forms and work-based learning, although the college I was a director of and supported for a long time had a training arm, so—[Inaudible.]

So, I think, when I look across the nations of the United Kingdom, I think there are some real positives to bring to the table. First of all, the Government have considered and continued to invest, particularly in further education, in a way that you've not seen in England; that's a big difference. So, England has gone for marketisation at FE level as well, and significantly reduced funding for further education. And I think it causes challenges now: we're looking at an economic environment where we are looking to upskill existing older people, as well as young people, so that challenge will be harder in England.

The other point I'd like to make is that I think there is more—I don't really like the words 'collaboration' and 'partnership' because I think you need to be careful how you use those words—but there is a lot more working together, engendered by Government, engendered by the funding council in Wales, and I think a spirit that you would find in any of the institutions that are involved in post-16 education. And I think that's to be celebrated and we need to reflect on how we can build that further, because clearly that's a significant intention of the Bill.

Thanks, Chair. I'm just going to ask a few questions about skills and experience, if I may, beginning with what skills and experience make you feel that you're well suited for the role.

So, as you know from my curriculum vitae, I've worked in higher education for a very long time; I can't even remember quite how long, as I sit here, but a long time. And also I have experience of working in the for-profit sectors, and I have found that combination of experience really helpful in my life to date, including in my current non-executive roles, and that would be something I'd want to bring to the table.

Now, what do I mean by that? It means that I have an appreciation of what our for-profit and not-for-profit sectors are trying to achieve. I believe I can establish good relationships with them, as demonstrated by my significant involvement with the Confederation of British Industry Wales, for many, many years, and that is an important part of making sure that we, as a post-16 body, working with the agencies that are delivering the post-16 education, are able to reflect on that particularly economic strand. I'm a great believer, from my time here in Wales, with the work I did around the Universities Heads of the Valleys Institute, in that combination of making sure people have got the right education, they've got the health, they've got the wherewithal, the transport infrastructure and housing, such that they have the propensity and the capability to be able to take up employment. It's important for their self-worth and it's important for us as a society.

The second one I just want to focus on is the significant societal and cultural role that post-16 plays in our lives. I enjoyed my school life, and I look back now, and I think my parents were very humble—I would say we were just about working class—and for me to achieve what I did in my lifetime—. I'm actually the only sibling in my family to have achieved higher education qualifications, so I'm a great advocate of people going into higher education. But I know that was because, at school, I had great teachers, I had an opening up of my mind, and I formed lifelong friendships, which are still people I'm privileged to call friends today. So, it's for those reasons, Ken, that I feel that I would be a really good person to be chair.


Thank you. Now, you've already mentioned work-based learning and school sixth forms as being areas that you're less familiar with than higher education and other areas of post-16 education. Are there any other areas that you feel you'd need to focus on early in your tenure to bring you up to speed with the full range of provision that's going to be coming under the committee's oversight?

I've always believed in being humble about what I know and what I don't know. So, I think, going into this with eyes wide open, I'm not going to make any assumptions about what I know and how I conduct this role. I think it's really important to start with that clean sheet, as far as possible.

So, answering your question more directly, I think, early on, you'd want to understand, and I would want to engage with the key players in terms of the post-16 environment. I do believe in establishing good relationships with people. And, I think, in a post-COVID environment, it's nice to be able to see people face to face, but I do think using digital engagement would be really important for us to establish those relationships and gain that understanding.

The other challenges you will well know, because you've had several scrutinies of this. It's a very long and—I won't say 'complicated', but there are a lot of elements to the Bill. So, I think working closely with the civil servants, because there's a rule set and an expectation of how the commission will work that I would want to make sure we adhere to. And if we were finding it was difficult to deliver what was expected within that framework, to be able to have productive conversations about how we might work in a way that stays with the spirit of the Bill, but also delivers, of course, against the agenda.

Great, thank you. And how will you use any previous experience of managing organisational change during the process of transition from the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales to the new commission?

You, again, know from my cv and my application that I've had quite a number of experiences of being involved with acquisitions and mergers. Primarily, I think it starts immediately when you appoint us all. So, the moment the gun’s fired, we need to start getting a shadow body together, because the transition is hugely important. We do not want to disrupt any learning during this transition. We do not want to find that, actually, we're not able to take opportunities during that period. So, for me, that shadow approach before the formal handover in 2024 is really important.

I'm not close enough to what's been done to date, apart from the Bill, to be able to go into a lot more detail. So, one of the first things I'd want to do is to get a really good appraisal of, 'Okay, what's our plan? What's the high-level plan?' And then, 'What are the key elements on which we need to focus to make sure we can deliver them?' And I think having that plan with, I'll call them 'performance expectations' against them, even during this period of shadowing, is really important.

And then the final thing, again, it is all about people, so culture is trumped so many times in terms of the strategy agenda, and I know that myself. So, building good relationships, both with the people who are in the current organisations that will form part of the new entity, and also those that are not currently involved. So, I think that approach of engaging with people, listening to them, reflecting and building that into the plan going forward will be really important.

Thank you. And just finally from me, do you feel that you've got all the experience required in dealing with an organisation of this scale, with a budget that is second only to the NHS in Wales?

I think it would sound impertinent if I just answered 'yes' to that question because you don't know until you do something. But I have run a £200 million university with the complexity of that, I've been involved with major corporates and, as I often said to my own staff, the number of noughts on the end, if you take off those noughts, it becomes a more scalable budget for individuals to engage with. So, I do believe I have the experience and I will draw on the expertise of colleagues who I work with to make sure that we deliver well. I do absolutely recognise that this is a very big change. And this is a bold step by the Government. We know that there are not many places in the world that have done this, so, I will be treating that with great care and respect. 


Thank you, Chair, and thank you for joining us this morning. What are the main outcomes that you want to achieve over the course of your tenure? And how might these change as the new commission is established?

Thank you for that. Well, I see it in three major phases. The first one is one that Ken asked questions about and is really the establishment of the commission and making it work initially. So, that'll be the first phase for me, and, as I say, that transition must be one that enables normal business to continue, including a development agenda within the normal business.

The second phase I would see as us really starting to shake up, in some ways, how we make an even more significant contribution to our economy and our society. So, what are the things that we need to look at? This is a hugely valuable resource, both of human beings—people who are involved in those institutions already and, of course, those studying through those opportunities. So, how are we going to make the very best proposition for each and every one of those? And there are areas where, clearly, we've got more work to do. I know from my own experience that the provision of Welsh language—Welsh-medium provision—is not as strong as it should be. We need to look at ways that we can do that in a twenty-first century way. We have a challenge, I think, geographically across the country—it's not all equal in terms of where we are, having worked in a region that is not very far from our capital city and yet still seeing major deprivation. We've got work to do. So, that would be phase two. 

And then phase three for me is really where we're looking at that maturation, where you're starting to look back and say, 'Okay, we've done a lot of the legwork now. We've got things moving, we've got projects on, we've got some delivery. What's the next phase? What are going to be the next big developments that we're looking for?' I can't give you specifics because I don't know enough about this yet to be able to be that specific, but I do see it involving closer partnership working in collaboration. Clearly, it's been a major feature of the Bill, but I do believe that that would be important. And I don't know what that means in terms of potential reorganisations or people working more closely together, but those would be the sorts of things that I'd want to look at.

And finally, of course, we're here today using digital infrastructure to be able to conduct a hybrid meeting, I would like to think that, over that period, we see the use of digital increase significantly to improve both the access to those educational opportunities, but also the quality and outcomes.

How do you propose to measure success in this role? And what might success look like to you towards the end of your tenure?

I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch the question. I'm sorry, it's probably my hearing.

How do you propose to measure success in this role? And what might success look like to you towards the end of your tenure?

Okay. So, as I've said, I do believe in a plan having performance targets against it—so, things that are tangible and you can actually measure. So, at the end of the period, I would expect us to see, first of all, higher participation in higher education. So, you won't be at all surprised to hear me saying that I do think we need more of our population educated to degree or above level. I think that's really important. I think we also need to see more of our young people actually going into employment—so, to eradicate that gap of those who end up not in employment or education.

And finally, I think we know that the future workforce is substantially made up of people who are currently in the workforce. I don't want to underestimate the challenges exacerbated by COVID of a completely changing economy, and how we support those individuals to retrain and to develop. So, those would be the three areas that I would want to look at. So, my answer would be that actually, we've got 100 per cent of young people having great educational experiences and having fulfilling lives in whatever career they choose to go into, whether that's in the for-profit or not-for-profit sectors, and we have a very small percentage of our population not working.


Thank you, Chair. I think you've already touched on this, but if you could maybe extend on what you've said: what do you think will be the key challenges that you will need to address as the new commission is established?

So, the first one is, despite my experiences of working with Governments over many years, this is a completely new venture, and so, I can already see: how is this going to work with Government and how are we going to make sure that the commission has—? Clearly, the Bill lays down the respective responsibilities, but how do you bring that to life, and how do you make it work to good effect? So, that's the first area, I think, I will have to get my head around more, and understand more about, and to continue to work with the civil servants and with politicians to make sure that it works well. So, a testing of the theory in practice.

The second area is people. We've already got staff who work in agencies and in Government that will be part of the new entity, but having people in the right roles and having the right people in the organisation, and the appointment of the chief exec is absolutely critical. I'm going to be a non-executive chairman; I will not be doing all the heavy lifting in the way—I know this from my own experience of being a vice chancellor; it's very different to be the chief executive.

So, those are the sort of immediate challenges I see going forward. And I don't know what organisational changes we'll want to make after that, but I would expect there would be some, both within the commission and within the educational institutions and work-based learning—training providers that fall within its remit. So, how will we encourage and achieve those sorts of changes is the second area of—I wouldn't say it's concern, but it is something that is on my radar and I'm aware of it.

I'd just like to come back to the people. Whenever I could, I talked about people who will be working in the agency. The establishment of the commission and the members of that board is really important, and understanding, if you like, what the associate members are. I'm a great believer in great governance; I'm a great believer in being clear as to who is playing a governance role and who are there in other roles, and actually, who's involved in the decision making. So, that would be something that I'm sure we will quickly clarify, but moving that forward.

And a continual process for the chair, I think, is to make sure that, first of all, there is a good 360 appraisal of the chair's performance, so actually you're understanding how the chair's performing, but also that members of the commission board itself and the sub-committees are able to have those dialogues so that their contribution is as effective as possible, and where it's perhaps not landing in the way that it should, that we work together to make sure that it does.

Okay. Thank you very much. That follows on nicely to my next question, which is: you've told the committee in writing already that—in your words—

'striking the right balance between the scrutiny and oversight function of the Commission whilst achieving the innovation and ambition of the Minister’s vision and expectations of impact will be important and necessary'.

So, how do you envisage striking that balance?

Setting the plan. I think the plan has to be clear on that balance and what you're doing in which domain. In some cases, there'll be things that I hope fulfill both of that, so it's moving us forward, it's part of an innovation programme, but it's also meeting that expectation of scrutiny. So, for me, it would be unpacking that in the development of the future plans, including, of course, the most immediate one: what are we going to do straight away? Then, actually, it's how we would articulate that and work it through. And having conversations with those key stakeholders. So, clearly, Government is a major stakeholder in this—Ken's already referred to the investment that the commission will be in charge of—but also with learners, with those working in the relevant sector, and also those who are leading in that sector, because much of the delivery will not be via the commission, it will be via those bodies that the commission has responsibility for scrutiny of and regulation of.

Thank you. And just on that, obviously, with the sixth-form element added, that's going to be an important one to sort of balance out—[Inaudible.]—what you're used to.

Yes, it is. And if I'm honest at the moment, I'm not quite sure how the sixth-form governance will work, because you've got local authority responsibilities for up to post-16, and the Bill does refer to this element, but it would be one area that I'd want to understand more about. I'm sure that there's been really great thinking done on this and that there will be a road map on governance that we can bring to life. However, as we unroll this, I'm sure there'll be some wrinkles and there'll be some things that need to be refined or, possibly, changed to make it work effectively.


Byddaf i'n gofyn yn Gymraeg. Jest ishe mynd nôl i'r pwynt a godwyd ynglŷn â rheoli newid yr oedd Ken yn sôn amdano, a beth rŷch chi newydd ei ddweud am lywodraethiant, y bwrdd a hefyd eich arweinyddiaeth chi. Rŷch chi a'r ymgeisydd ar gyfer bod yn ddirprwy gadeirydd yn dod o gefndir addysg uwch, felly o ran meddwl am yr holl sectorau yma, rheoli newid a bod y peth yma'n rhywbeth newydd iawn, sut ŷch chi'n mynd i osgoi'r comisiwn yn dod yn Gyngor Cyllido Addysg Uwch Cymru newydd o ystyried eich cefndir chi a'r dirprwy gadeirydd?

I will ask in Welsh. I just want to go back to the points raised about managing change and what Ken mentioned, and you've just referred to governance, the board and your leadership. You and the candidate for the deputy chair come from a higher education background, so, in terms of thinking about all these sectors, managing change and that this is a very new thing, how are you going to avoid the commission becoming a new Higher Education Funding Council for Wales considering your and the deputy chair's background?

We all have baggage. Clearly, I can't undo my heritage and where I have come from, but I have moved through three different sectors in my career, and I'm currently a non-executive in organisations that I didn't know anything about, so I'm actually involved with a charity that supports people through drug addiction and rehabilitation.

I think humbleness is quite important here, so let me start by saying that I'm not going to go into this saying, 'Oh, by the way, I'm the big I am. I was a vice-chancellor in an university, I know it all', because that is irrelevant in some ways to this job. I start as a newbie in role with the experiences I've had, and, therefore, being open, having those conversations, listening to people and showing them respect in that understanding. So, that's how I would want to lay this out. I'm not Julie Lydon, ex-vice-chancellor of the University of South Wales, although I have got that. I'm coming in as a commissioner and, actually, as chair of the commission, so that would be the approach that I would take.

I would want to—as I've said, I think 360s are really important here, so understanding how effective you're being in role and how effective the commission is being across that range of entities are important. Obviously, I am sure that there are fears about what it will do and how it will work, and we have to acknowledge that further and higher education are a substantial chunk of that entity, but it's really important that we don't lose sight of the totality of it and make sure that it's reflecting that. I do think the sixth forms—it's a bold step by Government, but I do think it's more complicated, perhaps, than HE and FE, coming into the commission.

Ie. Mwy o gwestiynau gen i. Rwyf i eisiau sôn tipyn bach am randdeiliaid a gweithio gyda rhanddeiliaid, ac rydych chi wedi sôn yn barod pa mor bwysig yw hynny i chi. Felly, hoffwn i wybod sut rŷch chi'n gweld y berthynas strategol rhwng y comisiwn a'r Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol yn gweithio a sôn efallai am eich gwybodaeth chi yn ddyfnach ar yr agenda Gymraeg a dwyieithog yn y sector addysg bellach, prentisiaethau ac addysg uwch, a'ch ymrwymiad chi at yr agenda yna, gan ystyried, wrth gwrs, fod dyletswyddau penodol ar y comisiwn yn ymwneud â'r Gymraeg.

More questions from me. I just want to talk a little bit about stakeholders and working with stakeholders. You've already mentioned how important that is for you. I'd like to know how you see that strategic relationship between the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol and the commission working and your deeper information regarding the bilingual and Welsh agenda for further education, apprenticeships and higher education, your commitment to that agenda, considering, of course, that there are specific duties on the commission with regard to the Welsh language.

Thank you for that question. So, clearly, I have experience of working with the college before. I'm not going to pretend to be an expert in everything that we do—far from it—and, as you can tell from the fact that I'm speaking in English, I'm not a fluent Welsh speaker. So, I would want to work with the coleg on their views and their expertise in how we develop Welsh-medium provision. And if we come to the existing position, clearly, I'm not familiar enough with current arrangements for Welsh medium, particularly in the school sector, including sixth forms, and in apprenticeships. So, those are the sorts of things where there'd be a learning curve to understand where we are at the moment and to work to set expectations as to where we might go, both short, medium and long term.

Yn amlwg, mae gan y coleg Cymraeg—rŷn ni'n disgwyl cael cyhoeddiad o ran y memorandwm esboniadol, onid ŷn ni, ynglŷn â'r berthynas arbennig fydd gan y coleg Cymraeg o ran cynghori'r comisiwn o ran delifro'r hyn mae'r comisiwn eisiau ei weld o ran datblygu darpariaeth cyfrwng Cymraeg. Felly, rwyf jest eisiau gofyn i chi a oes gyda chi unrhyw weledigaeth ar gyfer y berthynas yna o ran y comisiwn.

Clearly, the coleg Cymraeg—we're expecting an announcement in terms of the explanatory memorandum, aren't we, regarding the special relationship that the coleg Cymraeg will have in terms of advising the commission in terms of delivering what the commission wants to see in terms of developing Welsh-medium provision. So, I just wanted to ask you whether you had any vision for that relationship in terms of the commission.


I don't know whether I can comment on any arrangements about the formalities of those arrangements, because I'm not close enough to it and I don't want to put my foot in it by saying something that is contradictory to the discussions you've had around this table. But I would expect us to be in very early engagement with them. I do see them as a very important partner. But they are one of the stakeholders; there is a whole range of stakeholders that I'd expect to engage with in taking on this role and in establishing the commission. I hope that reassures you that they are one of the key stakeholders, but that's how I would approach it in terms of working with them.

Mae gyda nhw rôl arbennig, onid oes e, o ran dyletswyddau'r comisiwn. Rwyf eisiau gofyn yn fwy eang, te—yn amlwg, rŷn ni wedi bod yn trafod bod y sector addysg ôl-16 yn un amrywiol, felly pa sicrwydd allwch chi ei roi i'r sectorau eraill fydd yn rhan o gyfrifoldeb y comisiwn o ran eich dealltwriaeth a'ch gwaith chi o ran sut byddech chi'n delio â phob sector yn gydradd a phob dysgwr yn gydradd, o ran hynny o beth? Yn amlwg, mae yna ddysgwyr llawn amser a rhan amser mewn pob mathau o amgylchiadau ac oedrannau.

They have a special role, don't they, in terms of the commission's duties. I just want to ask more broadly—clearly, we've been discussing that the post-16 education sector is a diverse one, so what assurances can you give to the other sectors that will be part of the commission's responsibilities in terms of your understanding and your work in terms of how you would deal with every sector equally and every learner equally? Clearly, there will be full-time and part-time learners in all sorts of settings and ages.

Again, thank you. I think it's easy at one level to say, well, I've often been the first woman in any environment, so I've had that personal experience of, if you like, making sure my voice is heard, and that hasn't always worked. But how I would expect to approach this and for it to be a tenet of how we work is that we don't make any assumptions about anybody. One of the things I find really hard is when people assume things about you, about maybe your background, about what you think, where you are.

I was really privileged to work with some great people. When we started really looking at how the university I led was supporting people going through trans experiences, I'll be honest with you, I was a bit nervous because I didn't know very much about it. I didn't want to upset anybody. Sitting down and talking and having those conversations on the basis of mutual respect and not making any assumptions and working from that, and, more importantly, getting those people to help us with that agenda, was really important, and, of course, empowering them. USW, just by empowering individuals to say, 'Yes, you can get on with that; we want to do more work in this area', had huge success with a whole remit of awards, which you've seen in my cv. So, that would be the approach that I would take.

Now, when I say 'I', sometimes I do mean me, and sometimes I mean the commission and the staff in the commission. So, forgive me, because it can't be just a single person doing this. It must be a value of the whole organisation that actually they don't make assumptions, they establish good relationships, they work at those relationships, and they respect the individuals that they are accountable to and those that they work with.

Diolch. Rŷn ni hefyd wedi clywed yn gynharach ynglŷn â phwysigrwydd clywed llais y dysgwr o ran sut mae'r comisiwn yn mynd ati gyda'i waith. Felly, allaf i ofyn i chi sut byddech chi'n gweithio i sicrhau bod llais y dysgwr yn ganolog i waith y comisiwn? Roeddech chi'n cyfeirio'n gynt at yr associate members; fydd gan, er enghraifft, Undeb Cenedlaethol y Myfyrwyr ddim hawliau pleidleisio. Felly, sut byddwch chi'n eu grymuso nhw a gwneud yn siŵr bod eu llais nhw’n cael ei glywed wrth i chi ystyried y gwahanol anghenion sydd gan ddysgwyr amrywiol?

Thank you. We've also heard earlier regarding the importance of hearing the learner voice in terms of how the commission continues with its work. So, may I ask you how would you work to ensure that the learner voice is central to the working of the commission? You referred earlier to the associate members; the National Union of Students, for example, won't have voting rights. So, how will you empower them and ensure that their voice is heard as you consider the different needs of different learners?

Thank you again for raising that question, because I think it's a critical one. There are lots of stakeholders that are not actually on the commission. Clearly, as you say, the NUS will be there with a non-voting right. So, I think you have to formalise how you are able to hear that voice and to understand what's going on. Clearly, not all stakeholders can be on the commission board; that's not going to work. So, how are we going to engage as a commission, how are we going to hear those voices clearly, and how are they going to inform the work that we do, is something that I'd want to be formalised in the sense that there are both formal channels of communication and formal mechanisms for engagement so that, actually, you're able to see that. Ultimately—I go very hard measure on this—it will be on, actually, learner outcomes, because we are judged, ultimately, on that metric: so, how will we help the agencies that are involved in the delivery of those educational experiences in promoting those opportunities and enrolling a wide range of individuals into our universities, schools, workplace learning providers, so that, actually, they're delivering on that agenda? So, it will be the two things, if you like: the approach where we're able to hear those voices and then, I think, making sure that the outcomes of what the work of the commission and of the agencies that are regulated by it does—. So, hard facts.


Diolch yn fawr. Un cwestiwn bach olaf, te: oes unrhyw gynlluniau gyda chi ar gyfer gweithio gyda rhanddeiliaid y tu allan i Gymru?

Thank you very much. One final question: do you have any plans for working with stakeholders outside of Wales?

I am very open minded. Clearly, we are part of a UK. It would be naive, I think, not to pretend that there are organisations who employ people who work across the border. We clearly have research funding that comes across the border, through UK Research and Innovation. So, I would expect us to do so. For me, I always found it very productive to talk to my colleagues in Scotland and Ireland, when I was a vice chancellor. I think the Welsh Government also finds some value in that. So, I would expect to do that. I'm not completely clear as to where things are going with Europe at the moment—she says tactfully. So, I'm open minded.

The other one for me, as a commission chair, is I think the only other place in the world that's done something like this is New Zealand. You yourselves referred to contact with them. I definitely want to have some understanding from their learning and experience, because, if we can utilise that to good effect, then I would want to do that.

Diolch yn fawr. Diolch, Cadeirydd.

Thank you very much. Thank you, Chair.

Thank you. As the Bill was progressing through, we received quite a lot of evidence from stakeholders about the independence of the commission from Government, and it being quite closely linked together, and some concerns that perhaps Government would have too much of a hand in what the commission was doing. As chair, how are you going to manage that relationship with Government to make sure that you are independent from the Welsh Government?

I've clearly seen through your scrutiny as well continuing questions about that and some changes to reflect that. I think, again, it's back to how you manage the relationships with the stakeholders. Clearly, the Government have got significant investment in the work. As Ken said, it's the single biggest arm's-length body that you're investing in outside the NHS, so I would expect there to be a degree of scrutiny and engagement with what we're doing. I come back to that I think it's about establishing those relationships. I think this is where my past life working here helps a little bit, because it is a small world and it's amazing how many people you will know from that. But I can't disregard how valuable the civil servants will be. They help with the translation from the political agenda to how we're trying to work, and I think they understand the ministerial team they're working with. So, I would expect us as a commission to be doing that.

You asked me directly about me as chair. Clearly, there'll be regular meetings with the Minister. I feel my accountability directly to him and whoever it may be in the future. And working to both the spirit and reality of what the Bill is trying to do is really important. As I said very early on in this conversation, I'm absolutely certain that we'll find wrinkles as we try and move forward with this, and therefore the need for us to have a good productive relationship that talks about some of the, if you like, regulatory wrinkles that arise from the way that the Bill has ensued and is enacted I think is important. I would hope that we wouldn't have to go back to rewrite any part of the Bill. But, you know, what does it mean in practice? And then, coming back to the delivery side of things—because, ultimately, this is a vision with a strategy and a Bill around it to enable it to happen—checking in that we are on track to deliver that strategy. I don't know what the three- to five-year horizon might bring and therefore I'd want to be able to seize opportunities as they arise, and therefore to have a good, open dialogue about, ‘We had originally thought that this would be the programme of work, but, in fact, we can speed up some bits, and other bits are taking longer than we thought.’ That’s the sort of dialogue that I’d want to have.

So, it is about me, personally, as chair, establishing those relationships, working with the chief executive, who I would expect to have equally good relationships. And I’m very fortunate, of course, to have a deputy that has huge experience in the research domain and in universities generally. So, I think it’s that threesome, working closely together, and making ensure that we, individually and collectively, have good relationships with Government and civil servants.


How do you envisage your relationship with the deputy chair working, considering that they'll have responsibility for research and innovation? How would you manage that relationship? 

Well, first of all, with mutual respect. Why would we duplicate things? I do see it as a leadership in plural. I’m not expecting everything to be passed by me. Clearly, we would want to be able to trust each other and work things through. In practice, I would expect us to be quite frequently in communication, either in person or online, certainly in the early stages, checking in, using each other’s expertise, with the chief exec and other colleagues, particularly the civil servants, on how we move the commission forward.

Okay. My final question. As Ken said earlier, this is the second biggest budget outside of the NHS, and it is our job, as backbench Members of the Senedd, to scrutinise spending, scrutinise the work of the commission. So, how are you going to work with Senedd Members, who are not part of Government, and also engage with the scrutiny process, so that all Members of the Senedd can be assured that the commission is actually delivering value for money and delivering on the outcomes of what's been set in in the Bill?

I'm sure this won’t be the first time that I sit at this committee—

—going forward. I would expect to use this committee structure to be able to have that sort of dialogue, as well as informal. Clearly, if somebody picks up the phone and says, 'Actually, we want to understand what's happening,' why wouldn't we give reasonable responses to that? I think that if we are—. At the moment, that's the approach that I would take, I think: two-way. Both the informal—so, responding to specific queries and questions—but formally through the committee.

Thank you. Thank you, James. And thank you, Professor Lydon, for coming in this morning. A transcript will be available for you to check in due course. Additionally, the committee will be producing a report on the appointment, which will be published by the end of Monday. So, a quick turnaround—

Yes, a very quick turnaround.

—and we are very grateful to everybody helping to do that. So, just say thank you again, and I hope you have a lovely Christmas. Diolch yn fawr.

Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you, everybody. Bye bye.

So, now, just for Members to note, we'll take a short break and come back in five minutes. So, we'll go into private.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 12:08 a 12:15.

The meeting adjourned between 12:08 and 12:15.

8. Gwrandawiad cyn penodi Dirprwy Gadeirydd y Comisiwn Addysg Drydyddol ac Ymchwil
8. Deputy Chair of the Commission for Tertiary Education and Research pre-appointment hearing

Okay, we'll now move on to item 8, which is the deputy chair of the Commission for Tertiary Education and Research pre-appointment hearing. I'd like to welcome Professor David Sweeney here this morning—or this afternoon now—to join us. Thank you very much for coming in, and we've got some questions from Members to ask you this afternoon. I'll just start off with what is your motivation for applying for the role of deputy chair of the commission.

I think the simplest thing to say is I'm absolutely committed to research and innovation transforming our society in a very general sense, and it's been an immense pleasure and delight to work, firstly, in Wales for a short period but a long time ago, but more recently with some of your universities who have just produced absolutely fantastic research proposals, which I was in a position in my previous role to fund, and also, in some cases, to visit, engage and see the enthusiasm there was—but, actually, it's a bit more than enthusiasm—and the understanding on how you can construct a bid and then deliver on it. Indeed, the Spark building in Cardiff is a great example of that; it's been phenomenal. 

So, on the one hand, there's great stuff to work with. On the other hand, I've sort of been in this role because my previous job combined the governance and the executive role—not, actually, a model I would particularly encourage, so I'm happy this is not the case here—and that involved setting up a new agency exactly the same as this one. When I knew you were going to do this, and I'd been really impressed by the way the policy has developed over years, starting with Hazelkorn and Reid, and the vision of a tertiary sector—which I'm very familiar with, having observed the Scottish Funding Council for many years, actually, and also, of course, observed the funding council here—it's an ambitious attempt to construct a sector in these difficult times. But, I'm convinced from the way the Scots have handled it that it's the right objective. So, it's great to have a chance to combine my obvious interest in research policy and research delivering for people with the agency that can do that in a more joined-up way than is now possible in England.  

Brilliant. Thank you for that. And you just touched on a couple of things about your reflections on post-16 education in Wales at the current time. I'm just wondering if you want to expand on that, and how the implementation of the Tertiary Education and Research (Wales) Act 2022 will affect the sector, in your opinion.

Yes. Some elements I'm not familiar with, and, although I do know that sixth-form stuff in Scotland is entirely different, and that's my analogue, I don't know detailed stuff about how it happens in England, actually. But, in terms of FE, I've done quite a lot with further education. I, indeed, was responsible in the old English funding council for foundation degrees, which were very much a collaboration between universities and FE colleges, many of them delivered in FE colleges and with an articulation route into university for those who wanted it, and, in fact, most of them did want it. So, I think the engagement of further education with higher education and the articulation is something that is best handled, in my view, at the scale there is in Scotland and Wales. It's not, actually, something I think works readily in a larger environment, and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to participate in that. 

I am, I think, influenced by having watched that happen in Scotland, and how, at their equivalent of the commission level, there are some challenging choices to make over how you allocate the money, and also challenging discussions to try and ensure that each of the FE and HE sectors see the perspectives and benefits that the other one brings. I think, actually, that's quite hard work and it's something I'm looking forward to tackling. 

Good morning. Just a few questions, if I may, regarding skills and experience, beginning with the question of what skills and experience do you think make you well suited for the role?

Well, I've been at the heart of research policy for 14 years now and, before that, working in universities. So, probably I'm well experienced at dealing with Ministers—I've done a lot of that—well experienced at dealing with virtually all the stakeholders that there are in the system. And, so far, I haven't fallen out seriously with any of them—at least that's what they say. [Laughter.] And I just think it's great to engage with them. So, I think I do have the engagement skills. Clearly, I think I've got the research policy understanding, and I've done delivery, clearly, also, for years on this.


And are there any aspects of the post-16 education and training landscape that you feel less confident in knowing about? How are you going to inform yourself about the full range of provision that will come under the committee's oversight?

Well, I do think it's important the deputy chair role doesn't attempt to be the chair, and does provide input and challenge to the whole commission. But I think working with the chair, who will carry a lot of the load, on some bits of the portfolio is important. Where I am completely lacking, as I said, is in the sixth-form stuff. But, actually, I've done a little bit on apprenticeships with English universities, although apprenticeship schemes can be very different in one country to another, so I'm not going to assume that I know too much. So, certainly, quite a lot on the FE and schools side where I'll be leaning on the chair, but keen to understand and engage and debate. I do think the relationship between the chair and the deputy chair is important. You have—and perhaps I would say this—wisely chosen to have a formal deputy chair with responsibility for research, which is not the case in the Scottish equivalent, although there are people with responsibility for research. I think you've tackled some of the potential structural problems in the design of what you're doing, which is another reason that impresses me about the scrutiny, actually, that the Senedd gave the Bill.

Just on this point, there could be perceived a nervousness in some sectors—the sectors that deliver apprenticeships, for example—that perhaps you and the chair do come from the university sector as such. What are you going to do to assure those people that you're not going to neglect the apprenticeships side of it and the sixth-form side of it and just focus all the commission's time on the universities element?

Well, I think that that's something that they should fairly be concerned about, and we do have to, together, engage with them so that they understand that. But I think the only way you win people's confidence is by showing them that you understand the arguments by occasionally challenging them in a sympathetic way, because I think, if you don't challenge them, then there's not an appropriate exchange of knowledge going on. In my case, I have family links into further education—apart from having done the foundation degrees, which are very similar to apprenticeships in concept. So, I do know a bit, but I realise that only by chatting that through and demonstrating that you understand it, and demonstrating that you're taking their points of view into account, can you assuage those concerns.

Thank you. And can you talk about some of your experience regarding institutional change, because the transition from HEFCW to the new commission is going to be pretty considerable?

Yes, I agree with that. Well, I did precisely that, in setting up Research England—transferring a group of people out of one organisation into another and, indeed, I was one of them. But I also observed in the set-up of the bigger organisation, UK Research and Innovation, quite a number—in fact, a huge number—of people moved in from the civil service, and trying to balance the expectations and attitudes of those who come from a civil service background, and quite likely see their career developing in a public service role directly with Government, and those in an arm's-length body, whose career development is more likely to be in the sector, if they move, than into Government, that's proved, in my view, quite challenging in setting up UKRI. Therefore, it's something that I'm looking forward to giving attention to. It's probably, for me, the single biggest issue, other than providing support for those who will be uncertain about their transition anyway, in setting up the commission.


Thank you. Just finally, have you dealt with budgets of a similar scale to the budget that the commission will have? It's going to be second only to the Welsh NHS, so it's pretty sizeable. And, in terms of your experience, particularly with UKRI, was the organisation of a similar scale as well?

Well, the body I was running had an annual budget of £2 billion—about £2.5 billion, so, really—. I don't think the size, actually, of the budget is as important as the number of elements there are on it and the way in which you drive the allocation of those budgets. But, in this case, when I was with the English funding council, our budget was £8 billion and we handled education as well, although more recently I've only been involved in research. So, I have plenty of experience of doing that and also of working with the Government on the accountability mechanisms.

Excellent. Lovely. Thank you. Thanks, Chair. That's all from me.

Thank you. Thanks, Chair. What are the main outcomes that you want to achieve over the course of your tenure, and how might these change as the new commission is established?

Yes. I think my starting point is that the outcomes are set by the Government. I think this issue of independence, which I suspect you're going to touch on more, is interesting. I think that a body such as the commission is successful if it delivers on the advice that the Government gives it, which it has to have regard to, which effectively means 'pay attention and do'. So, you've got to keep the Government happy. But I'd position it a bit more strongly than that: they've got to feel that they have trust in you to deliver on their objectives, and when you want to challenge—and I certainly do believe in challenging Government—you will do it in a way that's constructive to finding a way forward. In the end, the Minister is the Minister, and you have to do what he or she says. But I think it's important to deliver. So, No. 1 objective is to deliver on the Government priorities; No. 2 is to do it in a way that carries the confidence and support of all elements of your sectors.

Now, I'm very well experienced in doing that balance. I described my previous role as being the chief advocate for universities to the Government, although, of course, the universities do that themselves. But, standing aside from them, the chief advocate, but equally the chief challenger to universities from the Government—and it was about that brokerage role of trying to align, where appropriate, university priorities with Government priorities—is key. I think the dynamic is slightly different, actually, with FE colleges where there's more of a regulatory role in the Act, and that's common in other countries. So, success is, to an extent, keeping everyone happy. I'm less enthusiastic about metric measures of success because I'm a statistician. You can game metrics relatively easily, and I think you should dig down deeper into whether you're achieving the policy aims and doing it in a way that makes your stakeholders feel excited about being part of the commission's remit.

How do you propose to measure success in this role, and what might success look like to you towards the end of your tenure?

Success is that people have confidence and trust in you and that you have delivered on the key policy objectives. So, I prefer to say—and this is something I'd apply in other contexts—'It's better to assess than to measure', because assessments can provide a more rounded view. But the assessment is not done by the commission itself; it's done by those who hold the commission to account, including, of course, you. So, I look forward to taking that discussion forward in a rather more detailed way as time develops.


Thank you, Chair. Thank you for coming in today. Good afternoon. The impact of the uncertainty at the moment surrounding our future relationship with Horizon Europe, our role within Horizon Europe, what do you think the key challenges are around that, and obviously the changing UK, European and global landscape around that, and the key challenges as a whole in establishing the commission's research and innovation functions? Thank you.

If we concentrate on Europe for now, I'd pick out three issues. The biggest is probably the shared prosperity fund, which is not something that the commission is directly engaged in lobbying about, but will be, I think, critical to the future of all of those who the commission is responsible for. Can I just say it's very challenging? I could talk a bit about it, but I think, let's just say, until we get some clarity on the medium-term approach to the shared prosperity fund, and particulary where the directions come from—. And I do believe that the directions should come as far as possible from the regions that are benefiting, and, in this case, from the nation. So, the shared prosperity fund is the first issue.

I'm less concerned about the funding from Horizon because I was very close to the discussions that were going on, not with Europe, but within the UK Government about it, and I do believe that the Government is committed to support in some way the beneficiaries of current European funding from Horizon through a UK scheme. Again, how that gets done is, I think, tricky. We've just seen an interim allocation of £484 million from the Westminster Government, which has proved remarkably easy to deal with in England, but there's a lack of clarity, as far as I can see at present, in both Scotland and Wales about how that will be handled. That, to me, is a tricky, tricky issue. 

But leaving those two funding sources aside, I think relationships with partners in Europe is critical. That's very challenging at the moment because our partners in Europe are very nervous, and understandably so. I am still engaged in a number of European activities in the research space, and know quite a number of people in the commission, but not at the level—. This is a political level that these decisions are taken on, and you mustn't play too much above your pay grade. So, I think there's much to unfold. I think the commission's role is clearly in some aspects of how the funding is utilised. I think, in terms of the position for the UK, the Welsh Government has a lead. I think this is an area where the Government and the commission should be working very closely together, because a lot of the discourse will be around policy areas, although some of it will be entirely about politics. 

Prynhawn da, a diolch am ddod i drafod gyda ni. Yn amlwg mae dyletswyddau penodol ar y comisiwn yn ymwneud â'r Gymraeg. Felly, hoffwn i wybod os gallwch chi sôn am unrhyw wybodaeth sydd gyda chi ynglŷn â'r agenda Gymraeg a dwyieithog yn y sector addysg bellach, uwch, prentisiaethau ac ymchwil. A hoffwn i wybod, gan taw'r Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol yw'r corff dynodedig a fydd yn cynghori'r comisiwn ar y Gymraeg, sut ydych chi'n gweld y berthynas strategol gyda'r Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol yn gweithio. 

Good afternoon, and thank you for joining us for these discussions today. Clearly there are specific duties on the commission in relation to the Welsh language. So, I'd like to know whether you could share any information that you have about the Welsh and bilingual agenda in the further and higher education sectors, research and apprenticeships. I'd also like to know, as it is the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol that is the body that will be advising the commission on the Welsh language, how you perceive your strategic relationship with the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol working.

I think that latter point is difficult for me; I don't think I've got the knowledge yet. I'm glad that the chair obviously comes from a background where she knows the arrangements. I'm Scottish; I admire the way that in Wales you've worked on your culture in a way that hasn't proved so readily available in Scotland. I think that in any nation that doesn't invest in research terms in supporting its own culture and supporting particularly learners who will grow into the advocates for that culture in the future, things are pretty grim. So, in general, I'm entirely sympathetic. But I'm not going to talk about the education side of that, because I'm not particularly in the loop, and I will lean on the chair to begin with.

On the research side, I think it's absolutely essential that there's clear support for the research agenda that feeds into that. It's something that should be very clear to everyone and set out. I think the wording in the Act about the medium of Welsh, though, is more difficult. I've spent a lot of time talking to the Chinese and Japanese Governments about research policy matters where, to an extent, they're—. It's quite good that they're so interested in what happens in the UK, in structural terms, but, of course, they know that the discourse on the research agenda is predominantly in English, and they have, therefore, to adapt and participate in that. And I note that, even though we've left the European Union, the Commission documents and all of the Commission's discussions are in English. I think I'm more focused on ensuring that there's adequate research support than on the medium in which the discussions are happening being bilingual.

I do think that you will have businesses who are quite naturally bilingual and want to engage in the medium of Welsh, and the commission should take steps to facilitate that happening. Though most of the engagement with businesses will come from our universities and FE colleges rather than from the commission directly.


Diolch. Yn amlwg, mae yna dirwedd ymchwil cyfrwng Cymraeg bywiog sydd angen ei gefnogi. Mae e'n rhywbeth sydd gyda chysylltiadau rhyngwladol—dwi'n gwybod hynny o brofiad personol o ran fy ngyrfa flaenorol ym Mhrifysgol Abertawe. Felly, ie, byddai hi'n dda petasech chi, efallai, yn gallu dod i ddysgu am hynny, a dwi'n siŵr taw dyna fyddai rhan o rôl y Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol, yn cynghori'r comisiwn, ac yn benodol chi sy'n gyfrifol am ymchwil o ran yr agenda hynny a'r pwysigrwydd bod hynny'n cael ei gefnogi.

Rŷn ni wedi sôn tipyn bach am ddysgwyr a llais y dysgwyr. Sut byddech chi'n gweithio gyda gweddill y bwrdd i sicrhau bod llais y dysgwr yn ganolog i waith y comisiwn mewn ffordd ystyrlon? Ac, wrth gwrs, rŷn ni'n sôn am ystod eang o fathau o ddysgwyr. Rŷn ni'n sôn am ddysgwyr dosbarthiadau chwech, addysg bellach, prentisiaethau, addysg uwch, ymchwilwyr—felly dysgwyr ôl-raddedig ac ymchwilwyr pur—a hefyd, wrth gwrs, dysgwyr llawn-amser a rhan-amser pan rŷn ni'n meddwl am bethau y Prifysgol Agored yng Nghymru. Felly hoffwn i wybod eich barn chi ynglŷn â sut allwn ni sicrhau, gan wybod na fydd gan y dysgwyr yna bŵer pleidleisio ar y bwrdd, bod eu llais nhw'n cael ei glywed.

Thank you. Clearly, there is a Welsh-medium research landscape and a very viable one that needs to be supported. It's something that has those international links—I know that from personal experience with regard to my previous career at Swansea University. So, it would be good if you were, perhaps, able to learn more about that landscape, and I'm sure that that will be part of the role of the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol, to advise the commission, and specifically you who is responsible for research, in terms of that agenda and the importance of that being supported.

We've spoken a little bit about learners and the learner voice. How would you work with the rest of the board to ensure that the learner voice is at the heart of the commission's work in a meaningful way? And, of course, we're talking about a wide range of learners. We're talking about sixth-form learners, further education learners, higher education learners, apprenticeships, researchers and so on—so, postgraduate learners—and, of course, full-time and part-time learners when you think about things such as the Open University in Wales. So, I'd like to hear more about your views on how we can ensure, knowing that those learners won't have the power of the vote on the board, that their voice is heard.

I don't honestly think the power of the vote is a significant thing in a commission. I've observed this all over the place. If it comes to a vote, then you've probably got to a very difficult position you'd be better not to be in.

I do think that the NUS has a particular role, even if they don't have a vote. My very first engagement in this context was the current shadow Minister or shadow Secretary of State for health when he was president of the student's union and served on the board. I was accountable to the Higher Education Funding Council for England board. I've observed consistently too in Scotland that their NUS president speaks with authority and is deferred to on all matters. I've watched the way the chair in that context makes sure that, at each point on the agenda, there's an opportunity for contribution, and I really have been quite impressed by the contributions, because they are coming with people not just with a lived experience, but with a living experience at the time.

I think the bigger question is how, given that there's a limited representation on the board, you hear about the voice of all learners. I suspect the NUS isn't particularly connected to sixth-form learners, for example. I think that's something that requires attention to handle, because we have to carry the confidence of all of those. I think diversity generally—. Well, you will not have an effective commission if the members don't come from diverse backgrounds and bring their experience to it. I see no reason why that should not be the case, and hope that the Minister, in appointing members, will take account of exactly what you've just said, basically.

I think appointing a chief executive, and ensuring the transition of staff, is really, really important, but I do think that, having observed board appointments in Scotland, Wales and, obviously, in England, I do hope that we can set, as a priority, the diversity of the membership, rather than pay attention to particular ideologies. 


Diolch. Rŷch chi wedi sôn am eich profiad chi yn nifer o genhedloedd y Deyrnas Gyfunol, felly dwi eisiau cael ychydig bach o fanylder am eich gweledigaeth chi o sut rŷch chi'n mynd i fod yn cysylltu, os o gwbl, gyda rhanddeiliaid y tu allan i Gymru, nid yn unig yn y Deyrnas Gyfunol, ond efallai'n rhyngwladol, yn enwedig o safbwynt y pwyllgor ymchwil ac arloesi. 

Thank you. You've mentioned your experience in a number of the nations of the UK, so I just want to have a little bit of detail regarding your vision of how you're going to be liaising, if at all, with stakeholders outside of Wales, not only in the UK, but perhaps internationally, particularly with reference to the position on the research and innovation committee. 

I think you sort of get that for free with me, because of the other stuff I'm doing. As I say, I meet, in fact, regularly with a range of people across Europe in one of my other roles in open science. In the work I'm doing at Birmingham, as a research centre we're particularly focused on engaging with groups across the UK, and, in fact also, in Europe. I'm also a bit connected in Canada as well. My most recent career has really involved engaging with all of the groups that you might think of, and I'm very keen in doing some other stuff as well as the commission to do that, but to speak up very much for what Welsh research can do, because it impresses me. 

Diolch yn fawr. Diolch, Cadeirydd. 

Thank you very much. Thank you, Chair. 

Diolch, Cadeirydd. As you probably heard earlier, there were concerns raised during the passing of the tertiary education Act about the independence of the commission from Government, because a lot of our stakeholders said that they were concerned that the Government would have too much of a hand in the commission and in directing it too much. So, I'm just wondering, in your role as vice-chair, how you see the working relationship with Government, so that the commission is independent, and isn't seen to be politically driven by the Government in power here. 

It's really what I've been doing for the last few years, so I do very much understand it. I think, in the end, the Government does take decisions. I think the independence is absolutely right in some respects, and, indeed, the Act sets that out. There are areas where the Minister may not give advice. My experience in other contexts has been that you need to know what those are and be able to refer to the precise place in the Act on occasion, because I think not everybody may be as well versed as people in the commission need to be. 

I was able to be involved in the writing of the Act that went through the Westminster Parliament in 2017, and I've been cross-referencing that with the Bill that went through the Senedd. And there are many similarities; there are some differences. It's absolutely key, when dealing with Government, should they step over the line, to be able to just refer clearly to what the rules of the game are. But equally, to trumpet the independence of the commission in all aspects doesn't give due respect to the bit in the Bill that says that the Minister can advise and you've got to have regard to it—I don't know precisely what that means. In that respect, I think it's important that, behind the visible discussion, there's a good degree of trust between the Government and the commission. Inevitably, the commission will occasionally be blunt with the Government, but the Government may also be blunt with us. I think mutual respect that the Bill's confidence and satisfactory outcomes will be achieved is important. That's essentially what I've been doing for the last 10 years, dealing with a variety of Ministers, and using the appropriate arguments to give due note to what they say—there's no point in messing around—but equally, to look for ways of explaining to Ministers how things might be better done, and partnerships with the civil servants are, in my view, key to that. Trying to do it all through the medium of a discussion with the Minister—though those, of course, will happen—I think, is not right. It's all to do with the submissions that the Minister receives, and with engagement with the civil service in ensuring that the right points appear before you get to difficult times. I do think that that's actually a priority. If the civil service don't feel that you're going to work with them in addressing what the Minister wants, then it becomes tricky, and it's a priority for me to develop good relations, obviously, with the senior civil servants, and for our chief executive and staff to also have good relations.


Okay. On relationships, you'll be working very closely with the chair. How do you envisage that relationship developing, given your role, which will be deputising for her, and your particular role on research and innovation?

Well, I'm confident that the chair will pay due respect to the position of the vice chair in being a research expert, and obviously I've done work with the chair in the past, notably on the board of the National Centre for Universities and Business, so I'm not nervous about that.

I think the bigger ask is that it is necessary, as deputy chair, for you to be more engaged than I would currently be with the broader aspects, which you've been through, so that's a bit of hard work, actually, to be able to deputise on the occasions when that is necessary. But equally, I don't think, given that most of the time has to go into the research strand and it's very important for Wales—and I should say research and innovation and skills, actually. I'm using 'research' as a bit of a shorthand there. I do think that the chair shouldn't be leading on most of this stuff, and it's a question of keeping in touch.

Okay. My final question is around engagement with the wider Senedd committees. As Ken alluded to earlier, this is the second biggest budget outside of the NHS, and it's our job as backbench Members of the Senedd to hold the Government to account and also the commission to account, to make sure that you're delivering on the aims that are set out in the Act, and ensure that money is best spent. So, how would you engage with wider politicians outside of the Government to make sure that we can be assured, when we go back to our constituents, that this money is being spent wisely, and that you're actually delivering on what was set out in the Act?

Well, two things. I mean, obviously, the committee structure is the formal way of doing that, and I think there's some stuff that is best done through a formal structure. But there's other stuff where just being able to offer ready answers is important. The parliamentary question thing in Westminster works quite well, but really, doing it less formally sometimes will just get Members fairly easy answers. It's a bit like freedom of information; I always feel that if you have to fall back on freedom of information, something could have happened better along the way.

But I do think, also, Members—. The commission—we're obviously talking about the commission because that's what the hearing is about. The commission is only part of the system in Wales. The Learned Society of Wales—in my sphere, the Learned Society of Wales is very important indeed, and not just the sponsor elements of Government, which, Chair, I've mainly been talking about, but those in chief scientist roles, whether in health or more generally, should be important allies of the commission. And I think, in terms of Members of the Senedd, you don't want to just hear a commission view; you want to feel that the broader stakeholders—. The Welsh innovation network, I think is, particularly, a new initiative that I think is making a considerable difference. You want to be engaging with us not as one group but understanding that we're working together to deliver for Wales.

Okay. Thank you, Members, and thank you to you, Professor Sweeney, for coming in this afternoon. We appreciate you coming here, and hope you have a safe journey home, and we wish you a merry Christmas. But also, you will receive a transcript in the coming days to check for accuracy, and also, we'll be producing a report on a very quick turnaround, by the end of Monday. So, we're grateful to staff for helping us do that as well. So, diolch yn fawr. 


Thank you. Great to meet you.

Take care. Goodbye. We'll now move on to item 9, and we'll go into private session now, as agreed. 

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 12:50.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 12:50.